The Question That Will Keep Me Up Tonight

So this evening as I was putting supper onto plates after swim practice and swim lessons, Aub came into the kitchen and asked: “So would you give Bubba part of your liver if he needed it?”

I dropped the spoon in the pasta salad.

Wait.  What now?

Apparently she’s watching a show where this is a thing.  Someone who is a recovering alcoholic has liver cancer and needs a liver transplant.  His relative decides to give him part of hers.

Because that can happen.  Live liver donors have become more common in recent years.

The liver regenerates itself, within a week sometimes but for sure within eight weeks.

First of all, how amazing is THAT?!  I’m still trying to wrap my brain around that–I mean, I remember the lizards and their tails when I was growing up, but for real–a liver can do that?

“Fearfully and wonderfully made…..” y’all.  No doubt.

But back to my daughter’s question?  Would I give part of my liver to my brother?

Ummmm, well, of course.  Right?  He’s a good guy.  The youth at his church were raising money for “Malaria No More.”  He promised them that if they met their goal, he would let them “Pie the Pastor.”  They raised more than they had hoped, so yesterday, he got a lot of pie smeared on his face.

And he never lost his smile.

Yes.  He can have my liver.  What else you need, Bubba?

But then the questions got tricky.  Would I give it to so and so?  Would she?

To whom on this earth would we say no way, no how–you’re not getting any of my liver at all?

Whom, in essence, would we be wiling to give a death sentence to?  I know that may seem overdramatic, but isn’t that kind of what it would be if we said no?

Yeah, somehow I don’t think I’m going to get much sleep tonight.  I’m working through all of the darkness this question has brought up for me.  Making me examine my own heart.  And relationships.  And wonder, who would say no to me if I needed part of their liver?  And what have I done that would lead them to that decision?

I’ve got the working out of so many things to do for sure.

Tonight I’m thankful for deep conversations and for a child who is a thinker.  She can make me laugh in a heartbeat, but she’s also willing to do the hard work of sorting through all sides of a difficult question.  I give thanks for family and friends who love me despite my attitude and the shadows of my soul.  I am amazed and grateful for the beautiful mysteries that our bodies are–regeneration–I can’t even.  Most of all, I’m thankful for the people in my life for whom there is no question that I would do anything and everything to make life better for them.  Because they unselfishly make my life better.  And they challenge me to be a better person.  Maybe even one who would not question giving her liver to anyone–but I’m not quite there yet.

May we all have someone to work through the difficult questions with–someone who challenges us and loves us despite our shortcomings.

Love to all.

Running for Love

From rising before the crack of dawn to walking with Miss Sophie this evening, from the icy chill of early morning to the warmth of the afternoon sun, today has brought a plethora of images of new life and sweet life.

The last of the blooms on a Japanese magnolia at my favorite campus.

The last of the blooms on what I believe is a Japanese magnolia at my favorite campus.

These sweet yellow flowers remind me of my Granny's farm.  I love them and all the warm fuzzies they bring.

These sweet yellow flowers remind me of my Granny’s farm. I love them and all the warm fuzzies they bring.

 

This tree has been bare all winter.  Look at that beautiful green!

This tree has been bare all winter. Look at that beautiful green!

 

Each of these leaves was smaller than the tip of my pinky.  I love to see some baby goats and baby puppies and babies of all sorts and kinds, but baby leaves are pretty cute too I think.

Each of these leaves was smaller than the tip of my pinky. I love to see some baby goats and baby puppies and babies of all sorts and kinds, but baby leaves are pretty cute too I think.

 

And for the sweet.  Cinnamon rolls thrown in the oven when we got back home, and our Princess decided to top hers with her all-natural gummy bears.  It's Easter, why not?

And for the sweet. Cinnamon rolls thrown in the oven when we got back home, and our Princess decided to top hers with her all-natural gummy bears. It’s Easter, why not?

 

But the sweetest image I can only picture in my head.

My brother, who is a minister, called me after church today.  He was, in his own words, honored to be the one to give the sermon at their Community Sunrise service this morning.  When he told me what he talked about, my heart was full, and I wanted to give him the biggest hug.

But it’s not geographically possible right now.

He talked about the story found in the Good Book in John 20–the story of John running for the tomb.  My brother pointed out how grownups don’t run toward something like that very often, so filled with love and passion.  He’s right, isn’t he?  Children seem to have cornered the market for running with joyful abandon, but not us adults.

Except for my brother.  He runs and chases his children. And mine.  And Mess Cat’s little guy.  He’s good at that.  So much so that his presence is requested outside at least once every day when they are here.

Children like to run towards someone or something they are excited about, something or someone who fills them with joy.  Children also like to be chased.  Pursued.

I love this story, and what it challenges me to do.

I need to seek joy.  Pursue it.  Run towards it.  Run towards the new life that can come from loving all and from caring and showing compassion.  Forgetting what I look like while I’m doing it, I need to run hard and catch that joy.

Who in your world needs someone running towards them?  Who needs someone in pursuit of them because they are loved and cared about, so they can see and feel that?

May we all find what makes us run with joyful abandon towards it.

Love to all.

Looking Up

This evening as I took Miss Sophie out for her evening constitutional, all was quiet except for the artisans finishing up the bricks on the new house.  (I am intrigued by their artwork and skills–I could stand and watch for hours, but I worry about being labeled a stalker in my own neighborhood, so I refrain.)

As I gazed up, breathing in the cold, crisp air, what I saw took my breath away.

The river of birds at sunset.  I tried to capture it, but this was a good as it got.  The birds are the tiny specks you might think are bits of dust on your screen.  I gave up trying to get a great shot and just watched, soaking it all in.

The river of birds at sunset. I tried to capture it, but this was a good as it got. The birds are the tiny specks you might think are bits of dust on your screen. I gave up trying to get a great shot and just watched, soaking it all in.

Oh bless it.

A river of birds.

Those blackbirds flying over in a pattern that was beautiful.  They waved and wound their way through the skies overhead, their darkness in striking contrast to the brilliance of the soft and lovely sunset.

And I remembered.

I remembered the first time I heard about the river of birds–the first time I’d heard it called that.  Pastor Bill talked about them as he shared stories with all of us at Miss B’s memorial service.

Miss B, our elderly cousin, who passed away two years ago today.  One week after Mama left this world.  Such a gentle soul, who is now dancing in a beautiful bright pink housecoat with no halt in her step and whose speech is now clearer than it’s ever been.  I know this with all my heart; I saw it all in a dream.  And I am thankful.

I am also thankful for this day two years ago, because hope was born.  Again.  Bubba’s new baby was born.  The one so loved and anticipated by us all.  He was born and we all fell in love.  And fell to our knees in thanks.  He had a hard start, but he’s a strong little guy, and he is a delight in our world.

Two years ago today.  A day that began with saying goodbye brought a beautiful hello by the time the sun set.

That’s what life does.  It’s never a straight cut path.  It waves and winds through joy and sorrow, good times and sad.  The most important thing about the journey, just as it is for our feathered friends, are the ones who travel alongside us, helping us to navigate the path.  Staying beside us and moving to lead the way when we need them to.

Tonight I’m thankful for the life of Miss B, who shared her love of beautiful things with us all and didn’t let what she “should” be able to do stop her from trying to defy the odds.  And I give thanks for my nephew, our Deer one.  He’s a sport, and his love and those eyes and when he says, “Oh sure…..”

Good job, God.  Thank You.

And happy birthday, little one!

Love to all.

 

Broken For You: The Tale of the Pie Caken

While my brother and his family were here staying with us last week, several things were less than perfect.

Our Princess succumbed to the upper respiratory crud for two days.

Thirty minutes into our outdoor viewing of “The Apple Dumpling Gang,” it started drizzling, and we shut it down. (But it was really, really cool while it lasted!)

The cake fell.

Miss Sophie got overexcited and barked and was quite upset when folks ran through the house.  Which, with a houseful of 10 and unders, was bound to happen.  A lot.

The blueberry custard came out a little soupy.

It rained.

And it rained some more.

None of which I had any control over.

In every single case, it was what it was.

And–

we dealt with it.  It was all about our attitudes.

And thankfully, when the tears (okay, my tears) threatened to fall over the cake AND pie messes, my brother had me laughing over the whole “pie-caken” idea–the dessert version of the turducken I suppose.

I don’t know what I’d do without that crazy, belly filling laughter.

It saves me.

Our Princess and I had a few minutes before she had to be at dance the other day, so we stopped by our favorite used bookstore.   As I walked down the shelves, remembering how I used to do the same thing all those years I worked in the library, a title caught my eye.

“Broken for You.”

I have no idea what the book is about, nor will I likely look it up anytime soon.  (Okay, just kidding, I just did.)

But those words.  They have been zigzagging back and forth in my mind all evening.

Broken.

For You.

For me.

For us.

This life is full of brokenness.  Children are going to get sick, and we can’t control that.  (If you’ve figured out how, PLEASE let me know.  Three different viruses in less than three weeks’ time–I’m a little over it.)  Cakes, despite our best efforts, are sometimes going to fall.  All it takes is a child taking a misstep on the stairs or one happily hopping through the kitchen or just a lousy coincidence.  Soupy pies?  Well Mama’s not here to tell me why that happened, but you better know one day she and I are going to talk about the vagueness of that recipe!

I don’t really think that the Universe is out to get me (despite what I say sometimes) nor do I think things are broken on purpose–sometimes they just happen.  But if I can look at the brokenness as an opportunity to share laughter (thanks Bubba) or to slow down or to be thankful for what did go right…..

perhaps the cracks are how the light of good thoughts gets through.   If I can look at it as being broken for me to work on my response, then there is a redemptive quality to so many things we are facing (I get it, not all things)–including a fallen poundcake.

I mean, we get better at something by practicing, right?  (I sure hope so–at least that’s what I’ve been telling my reticent mathematicians.)

So how can we get really good at being thankful,

at finding light in the darkness,

at laughing despite the hard times,

at choosing the right attitude…..

if we don’t get any practice, if everything always goes as planned?

Perhaps that’s what purpose fallen cakes and fevers and soupy blueberry custards can serve–

broken for me–

so I can work on not letting it all get to me.

In this life, we can let things break us, or–

maybe–

we can see it as being broken for us to practice our “attitude adjusting” and show what we’re made of.

I can’t say that I won’t get a little *ahem* upset the next time my pound cake falls (oh me), but I will remember the pie caken and find something to smile about in the midst of the frustration.

It’s a start.

Wishing you all the ability to laugh when things fall apart.  Or just fall.

Love to all.

 

My poor fallen sour cream pound cake.  Some folks around here say they prefer them fallen--they might be telling a tale, but I'm okay with that.

My poor fallen sour cream pound cake. Some folks around here say they prefer them fallen–they might be telling a tale, but I’ll take it.

 

the little boy who’s all grown up

the little guy who taught me all about little guys

is no longer little

the one who brought cars and trucks into our toybox

(I already had the tractors)

now drives one of his own

filled with his precious family

 

the one who took my hand as we walked and talked

down the old road near the homeplace

now takes my heart and listens

and shares his words of wisdom

that sound more and more

like those of our Daddy

 

the one who held my firstborn when he was still so young

now watches as that grown baby girl holds his baby boy

and the two of them laugh together

and take selfies and

the little boy who’s all grown up

and I

look on

 

when did the baby boy

become one of my best friends,

when did he stop keeping me up late with

all the silliness

just to see my eyes droop and hear me talk nonsense

and become the man who sits and shares stories

and joys and worries and all the life thoughts

until the wee hours of the morning?

 

this person who will always be my baby,

yet who is taller and stronger and perhaps even wiser than I

(though there’s no need to tell him that right now)

and who, as we both tried to do something yesterday,

when I said,

“sorry, just trying to fix it, that’s what I do”

replied,

“yeah, me too”

and in that moment

I saw how much more alike we are becoming

than we’ve ever been before

 

and I give thanks

for I need his strength

and laughter

and I love that he still wears the worn out blue jeans

and t-shirts

and goes barefooted in the middle of winter

and chases the children around

 

last night he packed his Matchbox cars and children

into his big car and prepared to head back home

the little boy who once lived down the hall

now lives way too far away

 

as I said “goodbye” and wept

the tears fell unapologetically

for I know that life, it’s too short

and I know that, despite everything,

we all need to be known well

and loved anyway

 

and that baby boy, the one with the jet black hair

and big green eyes

who changed our world

when he came home to a house full of sisters,

he knows my faults and my flaws and

what the inside of my microwave looks like

and how quirky I can be

and for whatever reason, he says my name and he loves me

 

the little guy who isn’t so little anymore

he’s grown into the space he owns inside my heart,

the space he’s owned since the first time he wrapped his fingers around mine

and today it feels a little empty

as does the house

as the laughter and stories we shared echo in my heart and mind

 

IMG_6651

 

Calling it a Night–the Game Version

Last night I was up late.

Oh yeah, I know there’s many nights that I stay up late writing and don’t publish my stories until after midnight and maybe get to bed by 1.

But last night?  I published my story at 3:12 a.m.

And fell asleep three minutes later, as soon as my head hit the pillow.

It’s like this when my baby brother is around.  We stay up late.  Later and later each night.  And last night was his last night here this visit, so we went for the record.

He went upstairs to bed after 2:30 a.m.  I could have gone straight to bed then, but as Bubba was standing there about to head up the stairs, it hit me what a precious time this is–this time being with him in the late night quiet– and the letter to my children starting writing itself and wouldn’t go away.  I wanted and needed to put it in words.

This keeping each other up late goes way back.  When I had moved back home with my oldest when she was quite small and Bubba came home from college, he would come in some nights and sit on the foot of my bed.  Yes, I was in bed.  Ready for sleep.  And that boy would sit there talking and engaging me in conversation until I started talking foolishness and he felt like his goal was achieved.  One night in particular was fifteen years ago.  My eyes were drooping and I could not keep them open.  He asked me a question and I remember replying something like, “God…..Jesus…..Hot dogs…..Elephants.”  The last thing I heard as I passed out was the sound of my brother laughing triumphantly as he headed down the hallway to his room.  He had won.

This visit we’ve both held our own.  1:30 a.m.  12:30 a.m.  2 a.m.  And then last night.  After 2:30.  At one point I thought I had him.  His eyes were glazed and they almost drooped.  I wasn’t sure he was really listening, and then I’ll be dog if he didn’t answer my question.  Coherently.

A little while later we were solving the world’s problems and he was sharing his thoughts.  I felt myself losing my grip.  I shook my head and continued to listen.  Then I had a thought to share.  And in the middle of it…..those elephants and hot dogs started floating around in my mind.  I totally lost my train of thought.  I don’t know if he noticed, but I stumbled for a second during which I had no idea what we were talking about–and then luckily I got back on track.

That was close.  He almost won.

In the end I think we were both winners.  We’ve had some hard conversations and some mirthful moments.  I haven’t laughed this hard in quite a while nor have I challenged myself to think about some of the things we’ve discussed in a long, long time.  It’s been really good.  And powerful.  And…..precious.

So tonight I’m thankful for sleep-deprived nights in the company of someone who knows me better than most folks who know me do.  I give thanks for his family’s safe journey down to see us, for the time that we worked to take care of business and for the times that we kicked back and just enjoyed being together.  Most importantly I give thanks for the gift of family.  For without them, none of the rest of what I have or am would matter one bit.

And I guess tonight my baby brother wins.  As he stays up driving all night to get his family safely back home, I’m calling it a night early and heading to bed.  No talking goofy, no droopy eyes, I say “uncle” and bow to the champion.  This time.  You win tonight, Bubba.

Wishing you all someone to stay up and have heart to hearts with.

Love and a GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP to all.

 

 

The Gift of Each Other

For my three children, and for anyone else who has a mind to read it.

Dear Ones,
You will never regret time you spend with each other, listening to each other’s stories, thoughts, dreams, plans, fears, and corny jokes. You will never tire of watching the expressions on each other’s faces, searching for signs of mirth or sadness. You will always be glad that you chose time together over just about everything else in the world. And no matter how tired you get, you won’t ever be sorry you missed an hour or two (or five) of sleep so you could stay up laughing and remembering and sharing the journey.

One day when I am gone I hope that you too will stay up with each other talking and laughing and reminiscing. I hope that I will have helped you have the kind of life that remembering will bring you more laughter than tears and will often find you together. Make time for that. For each other. And whatever stories you are carrying. Make room in your mind and heart and listen to every single one. And love on each other.

Each other is the greatest gift I can ever leave you. I promise you it’s worth more than all the gold in the world.

Love each other. Laugh a lot. Hold each other when you cry.

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Love,
Your Mama who just stayed up really quite late doing all of these things with her not so much anymore yet always baby brother and who might be quite cranky tomorrow but will be carrying a song of joy and thankfulness in her heart because of the love and laughter and the gift of each other

Love to all.